AUSTRALIA’S FLAG – “DID YOU KNOW?”
• The Australian National Flag is the only flag to fly over an entire continent.
• The Australian Flag was the first national flag chosen in an open public competition.
• The prize for the design competition (£200) was a substantial sum of money in those days – representing four years’ wages for an average worker!
• Given that there were 32,823 entries in the design competition, and the ‘Australian’ population was estimated to be around 3.6 million in 1901; an equivalent response rate from today’s population would amount to over 199,000 entries!
• Arranging the 32,823 entries for display at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne took eight weeks, and it took the judges six days to inspect them all and choose the winning design.
• Entrants in the flag competition gave their imagination free rein: designs submitted featured “every kind of flora and fauna identifiable with Australia – sometimes all at once” (eg a kangaroo with six tails to symbolise the six states; a galloping email heading south, and native animals playing cricket with a winged cricket ball !)
• The winning design was unveiled by the Countess of Hopetoun (wife of our first Governor-General) at a ceremony held at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne on 3 September, 1901. (In 1996 Governor-General Sir William Deane officially proclaimed 3 September as “Australian National Flag Day” – ‘to commemorate the day in 1901 on which the Australian National Flag was first flown’.)
• Two out of the five prize-winners in the 1901 flag design competition were teenagers (in fact, only one of the winners was aged over 40)
• The Southern Cross (formally known as “Crux Australis”) is a constellation that can be seen only in the night skies of the Southern Hemisphere. The individual stars are named by the first five letters of the Greek alphabet in order of brightness (clockwise from the bottom star) – Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon.
• The Southern Cross has a very significant status in Aboriginal mythology (eg as part of the legend of Mululu of the Kanda tribe).
• The Australian National Flag was raised for the first time at an Olympic Games in 1908 (London), celebrating a win for Australia in Rugby Union – at that time an Olympic event.
• The Australian National Flag is raised every morning at the school in Villers-Bretonneux in France, in memory of the thousands of Australian casualties incurred in liberating their village in 1917 (during the First World War).
Published 2009 by ANFA (Qld) Inc. For further information about flag history and protocol, and the “rules” for flying the Australian flag, go to www.australianflag.org.au .